What Does Texture Mean In Photography

By | 14/10/2022

In that location are many tools in a photographer’s “emotional toolbox” – the things you can do in photography to shift a photograph’s emotional message in your preferred direction. The one I’ll be talking about today is texture.

Photographic Definition of Texture

Texture in photography is not much different than in other contexts. If y’all imagine reaching out, closing your optics, and touching a photo, texture is how it would feel in three dimensions. Sand might feel polish and granular. Water could be polish and glassy, or it could be crude and precipitous.

Patterns and texture in sand
NIKON D780 + VR 100-400mm f/4.five-6.3E @ 145mm, ISO 100, i/160, f/6.3
Gentle, glassy texture in water
NIKON D3400 + 70-300mm f/iv.v-6.3 @ 300mm, ISO 360, 1/grand, f/half dozen.3
Texture of rough water
NIKON D800E + 70-200mm f/4 @ 200mm, ISO 800, ane/four, f/eight.0

Texture is more about the “in betwixt” details of your subject or the groundwork, rather than the broader shapes of the composition. In other words, yous could accept 2 similar compositions (say, symmetrical left/correct photos of a building) with different textures (peradventure one is mod and has a lot of windows, while the other is weathered and falling apart).

Emotional Messages

Texture is one of the easiest elements of photography to explain in terms of emotions, because unremarkably the words you lot would use to depict the texture are the aforementioned words to draw the emotions it carries.

If the texture is rough, it imparts crude emotions to your photo. If the texture is gentle, the mood is gentle. The more space in your photograph that the texture takes upwardly, the clearer the corresponding emotion volition be.

Similar all things in photography, at that place can be exceptions. I’d be interested to see people’s attempts to create harsh emotions out of smoothen textures, or calm emotions from abrupt, jagged criss-crossed shapes. It can be done, if yous apply the other elements of composition creatively (such as light, rest, positive/negative space, so on). But it’s not the norm.

The norm is more similar this. Harsh texture, harsh photo:

Texture of jagged ice up close
Canon EOS 80D + EF-S18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM @ 18mm, ISO 100, one/50, f/7.1

Bubbly texture, bubbly emotions:

Bubbles on a pink background with a cool texture
NIKON Z 7 + 105mm f/2.8 @ 105mm, ISO 64, 3 seconds f/4.viii

Polish and organic texture; a sense of nature in the emotional message:

Leaf up close with drops of water
NIKON D800E + 35mm f/i.viii @ 35mm, ISO 200, 1/100, f/9.0

Texture equally Subject

Sometimes, texture isn’t just a particular within the photo, just the whole signal of the photo itself. These tend to be abstract or semi-abstract images, and they tin be a powerful type of photography.

Repeated pattern of vertical lines
NIKON D7500 + 300mm f/4 @ 300mm, ISO 3200, 1/400, f/iv.0

The reason why “texture as bailiwick” photos tend to work well is that they tell a unified story. So long as aught distracting interrupts the texture, you’ll cease upwardly taking a photo where every role of the frame is on the same page, so to speak.

Half the problem with most photos is that they don’t accept a cohesive message, where equally much of the photo as possible adds to the image. (Information technology’s certainly the biggest problem with well-nigh of the photos I accept and never show anyone.) Texture-based photos bypass that, to some extent. If the whole epitome is a single texture, many of that photo’due south emotions are going to be unified almost by definition.

Repeated pattern and texture in sand
NIKON Z 7 + lxx-200mm f/4 @ 185mm, ISO 64, 1/40, f/9.0

This alone doesn’t guarantee a portfolio-worthy image. The texture still needs to be interesting if you lot desire a good photo. Odds aren’t great that a random flick of your kitchen floor volition exist a winner. Factors like low-cal and limerick continue to play a big role in the moving-picture show’s quality, as always. But “texture as subject area” is still ane of the easier ways to have a unified photo, and that can be a very practiced starting point.

Texture as an Chemical element of Limerick

In almost photos, texture isn’t going to exist the leading role and won’t command most of the photo’due south attention. For instance, if you have a portrait photograph, chances are that people will look at the bailiwick’s eyes more than the texture of their pare or hair.

But even when texture isn’t the reason behind a photo’south existence, information technology still plays a role in shaping the image’southward emotions. Maybe the primary subject area of your photo is a mount on the horizon, and that won’t change regardless of the rest of the photograph. But in that location’s still a big emotional divergence between a flowing meadow in the foreground versus cracked patches of dirt and rocks.

Distant rock formation with high-contrast leading line in the foreground
NIKON Z 7 + NIKKOR Z 20mm f/1.8 Due south @ 20mm, ISO 64, 1/30, f/xiii.0

One area that I always pay attending to in my photos is the out-of-focus groundwork. In many photos, the out-of-focus areas take up large amounts of the image, giving them a lot of emotional impact. Accept a await at the image below:

Dragonfly photo with busy, distracting background and bad bokeh
NIKON Z vii + Laowa 100mm Macro @ 100mm, ISO 250, 1/800

In this case, the rough and clashing highlights and shadows in the background don’t assistance the emotional message. In fact, the groundwork attracts enough attending of its ain that it really draws people’s optics away from the subject.

So, I followed the dragonfly around for a few minutes as it landed on different plants, in hopes of getting a groundwork with a less distracting texture. I was happy to encounter it land hither soon after, for what I consider a amend photo:

Macro photo of dragonfly with beautiful background texture
NIKON Z vii + Laowa 100mm Macro @ 100mm, ISO 125, 1/800

The subject of the two photos is the same. The composition is also the same, just mirrored. But the 2d photograph works better considering the more gentle groundwork texture is a better fit and doesn’t distract from the dragonfly.

(Irresolute the groundwork texture is also something you lot can accomplish by changing your aperture, although in this case, I’thou reasonably sure that I used the same aperture both times. It was a non-CPU lens, though, so I can’t say for certain, aside from noting the like amount of the dragonfly that’s in focus both times.)

How to Make the Most of Texture

Texture isn’t something you should spend an eternity worrying virtually. Information technology’south only another tool at your disposal during composition. Just it
something that yous have some control over in most photos, fifty-fifty not-studio scenes. There are almost always going to be ways to shift a photograph’s texture in i direction or another.

For example, you could modify your limerick either slightly or drastically. Here’s an example where I remember the harsh foreground texture of the seashore, though not awful, contradicts the rest of my photo somewhat:

Harsh foreground with a gentle background
NIKON Z seven + NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 Southward @ 24mm, ISO 64, 1/half dozen, f/thirteen.0

So, when I started taking some drone photos a flake later in the morning, I fabricated certain to capture a like composition simply with gentler texture in the foreground. To me, this next shot is an comeback:

Landscape with gentle ocean texture in the foreground
DJI Mavic Pro 2 + 28mm f/2.8 @ ISO 100, i/1600, f/4.0

Y’all could as well search for unlike subjects in the first identify. As I watched the sunrise from a mount several years ago, I found a specially jagged subject field to photograph:

Intense mountain with harsh texture
NIKON D800E + 70-200mm f/four @ 200mm, ISO 100, 1 second, f/8.0

Whereas the texture on the same forenoon, but in a different management, was virtually the complete opposite:

Minimalist mountain with smooth texture
NIKON D800E + seventy-200mm f/four @ 200mm, ISO 100, 1/15, f/8.0

I’m not saying either is better or worse, just that y’all can get drastically unlike results simply by keeping your eyes peeled for a diversity of subjects. This goes along the same lines as my recent article on timing and direction in mural photography. Based on the time of mean solar day that you’re taking pictures, and the direction you face up, yous can end up capturing drastically different textures – and, therefore, drastically unlike emotions.

Y’all may accept noticed that most of what I’ve talked about so far has to do with field-based photography nether natural calorie-free. But if you’re taking pictures in a studio, you have nearly limitless control over the texture throughout your image.

Here, I photographed some sheets of paper in a fashion that emphasizes how coarse and rough they are:

Jagged texture in sheets of paper
NIKON Z 7 + 105mm f/2.8 @ 105mm, ISO 64, 1/200, f/3.5

Only from a dissimilar angle, and by using softer and warmer lite, I was able to capture a much gentler texture:

Smooth texture in sheets of paper
NIKON Z 7 + 105mm f/two.8 @ 105mm, ISO 64, ane/200, f/iii.5

Even if you don’t have the luxury of shooting in a studio, yous can as well control texture to some degree in post-processing. For example, to emphasize the cracks in the wall in the post-obit photo, I boosted Lightroom’due south clarity slider – and, yes, the texture slider! – to +xv and +five respectively:

Slight clarity and texture boost in lightroom to emphasize the cracks in the wall
NIKON D780 + VR 45mm f/one.8G @ 45mm, ISO 100, 1/125, f/x.0

But it’s like shooting fish in a barrel to go overboard. Maximum or minimum slider settings aren’t usually a adept idea, especially when dealing with peculiarly harsh sliders like Lightroom’southward clarity option. It’due south easy to see a texture you like, but then have things style as well far:

Overdone post-processing with extreme clarity
Too much of the clarity and texture sliders in Lightroom!

Anybody’s tastes are going to be different, but the paradigm above crosses the line from a photo to digital fine art in my mind, and non in a way I’chiliad happy with. Then, brand sure non to overdo it if you decide to outset emphasizing or de-emphasizing certain textures in post.

Lastly, your photographic camera settings can have an touch on your photo’s texture, and not merely in terms of depth of field like I covered a moment agone. Hither’s an example where I used a deliberately slow shutter speed of ane/10 2d and shot handheld, panning with the ocean wave, to emphasize its gentle graphic symbol:

Texture of the ocean with a long exposure
Canon EOS Insubordinate SL2 + EF-S18-55mm f/four-5.6 IS STM @ 55mm, ISO 100, 1/10, f/22.0

When you recall out of the box, you tin can find many similar cases. Long exposures, filters, flash (sometimes in combination with long exposures and filters) – all of these can be tools for capturing the textures you want in photography.


I hope this article gave you lot a good idea of how to piece of work with texture in your own photos. I won’t claim that information technology’south the well-nigh important part of composition, or probably even in the summit five. But it still influences a photo’due south emotional message, which ways it’due south worth paying attending to. And if you’re completely stuck for skillful photo ideas at a given location, look around for some interesting textures, and you tin get those creative wheels spinning once again!

Source: https://photographylife.com/texture-in-photography